Students love YouTube.
As educators, we need to embrace this! The great part is that YouTube has a ridiculous amount of amazing science and math content! I recognized this a few years ago and leaned in to develop one of my most low-prep assignments, and it has led to high engagement and some serious authentic learning.
Are you ready for it?
I’m going to use a Chemistry class as the example, but you’ll see that it can be easily adapted to ANY subject.
So what’s the assignment?
Each student finds a chemistry-related YouTube video that interests them in some way. I tell them that their goal is to find something that will BLOW MY MIND! I ask for it to be between 3 and 7ish minutes unless they can realllllly justify why they need to show something longer. They will be sharing their video with the class. Over the course of a unit, term, or year (it’s up to you!) I begin a couple of classes a week with a student presentation. I allow them to sign up for a day that works for them.
How is the presentation structured?
When it’s time for the presentation, the student gives a brief introduction to what we will be watching, why they selected the video, and then the class watches the video together. Then, the presenter leads a brief discussion with the class with questions that they have prepared. I ask that they have some factual/recall questions and then one or two that could prompt a bit more conversation – something more opinion-based.
How does the audience behave?
This is where I was unexpectedly amazed – it’s as if teenagers are wired to give their undivided attention to YouTube. And they also retain a lot of what they watch from these short videos! There is always tons of participation when the presenter asks their questions after the video.
How do you grade it?
I grade it using a rubric including categories addressing their introduction, the explanation of the relevance to chemistry, the curation of questions, and their reflection in terms of why they selected it. I have also previously had them submit a written reflection and summary of the video, but I don’t think it necessarily adds to the quality of the assignment and it gives me more to grade! I should also add that I model it before they select their videos so that they know what it should look like.
Why do I love this assignment so much?
My secret goal with the YouTube project is to have them explore a variety of videos until they find an area of chemistry that interests them. Over the few years that I’ve done this, I’ve seen so much authentic engagement – both in finding their own videos and in enjoying their peers’ selections. It’s such an easy way to make connections! Some topics they’ve presented include chemical warfare in WWI, bioluminescence, the Big Crunch theory, triple point reactions, the role of oxygen in the body, nuclear weapons, tumour growth and chemotherapy, chemical nerve agents, chemistry in forensics, the chemistry of the brain on drugs…I could go on. And that’s just chemistry class! When I did it in my biology unit of evolution I learned about some of the coolest organisms on the planet!!
If you want my intro, a couple of editable rubrics/grading schemes, and a sample presentation you can find it in my TpT store here.
However it’s a super easy assignment to adjust and make your own. Give it a try! It’s a nice way to start off a class 🙂 Let me know how it goes!
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